Right from the start, I will declare that I am not an analyst, who would study all the statistics then come to an intelligent conclusion based on metrics.
Rather, I am an old-school basketball fan and observer, someone who has seen the past and the present, both on the NBA and the PBA for that matter.
Having said that, I now pose the question — is defense vanishing in the NBA the way teams are playing the game right now?
Being on lockdown gives me a lot of opportunity to watch current NBA games, the 10-minute highlights and the way players can score at will, whether from the outside, particularly from the 3-point area, or slicing through the middle practically unchallenged. This made me ask that question regarding NBA defense and the much-improved offensive side. I believe the current average team scores around 110 points per game will bear me out.
Being an old school basketball fan, I cannot but help compare the way the game is played now from the 1980s to the 90s, when driving to the basket was a serious risk to any player, especially when one is playing the Detroit Pistons of Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn, just to mention a few.
Michael Jordan was the recipient of this "special" type of physical defense by the Pistons in their regular playoff meetings. It took awhile before the Bulls got the measure of the Pistons and started their winning streak in the NBA and MJ had to beef up to be able to take the pounding given to him under the rim on his drives.
There were also many player fights that happened because of the overly physical defense that teams played then — Larry Bird vs Julius Erving, Bill Laimbeer against the Celtics and the Bulls, New York's Charkes Oakley, Shawn Kemp and Larry Johnson — these were just some of the players, who figured in fights that for some became personal.
But when player fights started going beyond the court, like Ron Artest going up against a heckler-fan, NBA officials had to do something, and they did, clamping down on the physical defense of players.
A lot of things were prohibited on players driving to the hoop, thereby lessening physical contacts. Now, players could slash their way into the basket with not much resistance from the opposing players.
This for me, signaled the start of the emphasis shifting from defense to offense for a lot of NBA teams. Then, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors came along and started winning with their three-point shots that come from everywhere. They are joined later by the likes of Luka Doncic, Damian Lillard, James Harden and Trae Young, to mention a few — players, who thrive from way way beyond the arc.
Soon enough, everyone was shooting treys, not just the guards and the forwards, but including the big men like Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, Brook Lopez, Kristaps Porzingis, and a host of others.
NBA players also came up with a lot of offensive shots that before could only be described as Hail Mary ones. Observe how players have perfected their floaters or tear drop shot, reminding me of Francis Arnaiz of Toyota before.
The Nets are no. 1 in offense, but way down in defense, but they are winning consistently with their offense. Imagine 3 players averaging around close to 80 points per game in Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Harden.
Indeed, the NBA's way of playing the game has evolved and an unfortunate casualty is individual and team defense.
And that is the bottom line for me.